Schoolchildren, slum kids, politicians and diplomats were among
thousands who paid homage to the Father of the Nation Mahatma
Gandhi at his memorial here Sunday when the nation celebrated his
142nd birth anniversary. Many who had queued up since early
morning recounted his lasting message of truth and non-violence.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani were among those
who paid floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat -- the
memorial to the Mahatma on the banks of the Yamuna river. It was
the Congress president's first public appearance after her surgery
in the US.
Representatives of nine religions - Buddhism, Baha'ism,
Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism
and Sikhism - took part in an interdenominational prayer meeting
With devotional songs like "Raghupati raghav raja ram" and "Vaishnav
jana to" playing in the background, several Gandhians and others
joined the schoolchildren in paying tributes to Gandhi.
Among other visitors were Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and
union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath.
A minute's silence was observed at the black stone memorial with
'Hey Ram' inscribed on it by all the leaders. Several other
leaders are expected to visit the memorial throughout the day.
Crowds, including a number of kids from slums and shelter homes,
thronged the Gandhi memorial and some of them sang devotional
songs and showered flowers at the memorial.
"I've come here for the first time and I was very excited to
perform on Gandhiji's birthday before the leaders of our nations.
I will cherish this opportunity forever," said Anoop, a
13-year-old from Salaam Balak Trust, a shelter in north Delhi.
Hundreds of people queued up in front of Rajghat since early
Sunday to pay their homage.
"Even years after his death, the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi have
acquired greater importance. From educational institutes to the
film industry, everyone is drawing inspiration from him," said
Sanjeev Gupta, a government employee.
Many people came to Rajghat after being inspired by civil society
leader Anna Hazare's peaceful protest against stringent
anti-corruption law in the country in August this year.
"I used to think that Gandhian principles were all about preaching
and it is impossible to use them in real life, but I was totally
impressed by Anna Hazare's movement. He showed the world how
principles of peace and non-violence are so relevant event today,"
said Shekhar Singh, a college student.
Several organisations in the national capital like Gandhi Smriti
and Gandhi Museum have organised special exhibitions on Gandhi to
create awareness among youngsters about his teachings and his role
in helping India gain Independence.
The birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is celebrated as Gandhi
Jayanti across the country. It is also marked as the International
Day of Non-Violence.
Gandhi, born this day in 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat, played a
key role in India's independence struggle. He was assassinated Jan